Take a Virtual Tour of a Seed Testing Lab

The staff of 20/20 Seed Labs take you inside their facility for a virtual tour and a step-by-step demonstration of the seed testing process.

They show you how seed is tested from start to finish, and how seed problems are diagnosed to provide the customer with the information they need to make wise decisions.

In this webinar you will learn:

  • How seed analysts conduct their work
  • How various tests performed and what they do
  • How test results are reported to the customer and what they can be used for

Questions and Answers from our Webinar

Can the PCR test be used in the same way for turf grasses to identify disease?

Yes, PCR is capable of identifying many different diseases across different crop types.

What is 20/20 Seed Labs recommending for a maximum level of fusarium in seed?

At the moment, we don’t actually have any recommendations for a safe level of fusarium. In the Prairie provinces, we are collaborating with industry and other fusarium groups to develop a threshold for a safe level of fusarium in the seed. However, fusarium testing is still very, very important to determine your own risk management, and how to manage that level on your seed going forward.

Does seed treatment aid the vigour of the seed, or germination?

In a very specific circumstance, seed treatment can improve your vigour. But that is when the quality issue is due to disease pressure. And so what happens with disease pressure in a germination test is that the seedlings become infected. And then that inhibits their ability to develop quickly, or to develop all those essential structures. The application of seed treatments can eradicate some of that disease pressure, and then allow for proper development of those of those tissues. So under some circumstances, yes, a treatment can definitely be a tool to help.

Can the PCR test be used in the same way for turf grasses to identify disease?

PCR testing is really diverse. There are still so much more opportunities to for continued development with PCR testing. Some PCR testing is used extensively throughout different crop types for different diseases. So, I would say yes, absolutely. PCR testing can be used for disease testing in forages.

How can you identify pathogen strains based on plate results? Can you use a more selective method for this?

Our method is really based on the skill of the disease diagnostician. What we do is we grow our seeds on a sterile environment, or I should say on a in an environment where we’re going to where it’s favorable, and then at a certain growth time, we’re going to look at the mycelium that’s developed. And then based on the morphology of that we’ll be able to identify which species of disease is present.

And how many seeds do you use to do a disease test on a plate per sample carry?

We test 200 seats per sample.

Regarding that vacuum seeder you showed, what size holes you use with the vacuum seeder for small seeds like say carrots, cilantro, parsley, those sorts of sort of more niche crops?

That’s an excellent question because I don’t really have the answer to that one. You can order them in different sizes. So here in that lab, we have probably two or three different hole sizes for different crop types.

How do you conduct a vigour test for wheat, for example, type of stress, temperature duration.

There are many different vigour tests. And they’re selected by labs with the end user in mind. And so what we do here at 20/20, is we use something called a direct test. And that’s where we’re looking at a direct stress on the seed where we’re creating that stress in the lab, and then we’re measuring the performance of the seed. We are using a cold test method, which is a period of cool temperature, they’re grown at a cool temperature for an extended period. And then at the end of that test period, we take a look at all those seedlings and we apply a minimum growth criteria. Seedlings which don’t meet that criteria are considered to be non vigorous.

What is considered “good” in the cold test?

What we want to see is germination and vigour values that are quite similar. And I guess if you were taking a math test, you would want to get 100%. Same thing applies here, we always want to see the highest bigger test bigger relates to the emergence of your seat. So having a synchronous germination in the springtime, it’s really important to see the establishment for your overall quality of your growing crop. So I would say that if your germination result is in the 90s, and your vigour result is within 10% of that, I would consider that to be a strong vigour. Once we start seeing great differences between germination and vigour, that is an indication that there’s certainly some risk with that sample.

Regarding dormancy, how do you accurately test germination and species that may have dormancy when harvested?

Dormancy is present in many species, and particularly native plant species, because it’s a way to ensure the propagation of the species. I mean, if all the seeds just fell off the plant, as soon as they were ripe, a lot of those plants would start to grow right away, and then they might die because it’s winter or the conditions aren’t favourable. So dormancy really is a natural protective function of the plant. What we do with cultivated crops is we kind of ask those seeds to maintain some dormancy but not too much dormancy. There’s a fine balance because when we’re ready to plant the seed, we want that seed to start growing. In the lab, it’s very common that we apply a dormancy breaker to those crops depending on which crop type it is, and how deep that dormancy is expected to be, we may apply different types of dormancy breakers. But what that dormancy breaker does is it allows the physiology the biochemistry of the seed to change and allow the seed to start growing. We often do a three day dormancy breaker by putting the seed at low temperature for three or four days, and then moving up to a warm temperature.

Can you discuss the variability that can be seen across different labs in regards to germination levels? Like say, one lab has 85%? And the same sample receives 90 or above at a different lab? Does that have something to do with abnormals being diagnosed differently by one person versus another? Or what do you attribute that to?

In a perfect world, we attribute that to math. If the samples are originating from different sampling, times, maybe that in itself creates variability. If let’s say you go to sample your seed, and you divide it in half, so you’re taking a good representative sample, you’ve taken a number of primary samples from your seed source, you mix them all up in a bucket, you’ve divided it in half. And you’ve sent it to lab A and then to lab B, here in Canada we have an accreditation standard for germination. And it’s our responsibility as labs to perform those tests according to those accredited standards. Meaning that we’re going to conduct the test in exactly the same way. We also have a standard for training and expertise here in Canada, we have to prove as an analyst that we maintain the standard for germination that CFIA requires of us. And there’s a whole lot of training that goes into it. But every time that we introduce a variable in there, we’re going to increase the variance that you might see. And I would say the number one way that that happens is through different sampling events, different sampling times. Having accurate sampling is one of the most important things we can do as every decision that we make with seed is going to start with sampling.

Can you clarify what Canada number one standard means and which test is used to determine if a seed measures up?

I believe that Canada Certified Number One, if we’re talking about seed, this is a pedigreed seed standard that is administered through our whole seed system. What it is, is it’s a generation of seed that has a particular standard of quality. It relates to how the seed is grown. It relates to how the seed is moved, stored, sampled, and tested. Once we get to the point at which we have a final test result, then we can apply a certified number one tag if that’s the grade that we’re going for. And the certified number one tag is an assurance of quality, it’s counted as assurance of quality. And once you see that tag, you can know that all of this work and time and expertise has gone into the production of the certified seed and you can know that you’re buying a certain quality of seed.